Early American Marxism: Document Download Page by Year: 1937

Early American Marxism

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“The Moscow Trial in Historical Perspective,” by Jay Lovestone. [February 13, 1937] As with Leon Trotsky, Lovestone looks to French Revolutionary history for an explanation of the Zinoviev-Kamenev-Radek trial of 1936—the first of the three Great Soviet Show Trials of 1936-38. Lovestone contends that while “the merest glance at the ofÞcial proceedings...is enough to convince any candid person that some, at least, of the charges and allegations...cannot hold water for a moment since they are full of gross contradictions, material and psychological.” Lovestone’s chief interest is the political implications of the trial, seeing an extremely close historical parallel in the patently false charges of “monarchism” levied by the Jacobins against their Girondin and Dantonist opponents in order to justify their destruction. The truth or falsity of such charges is of little long-term importance relative to the political implications of the physical destruction of the defendants, in Lovestone’s view.


”The Moscow Trials: An Editorial Statement” [Feb. 20, 1937]. This unsigned editorial in Workers Age, official organ of the Communist Party (Opposition)—the “Lovestoneites”—attempts to make sense of the second of the three great Moscow Show Trials, the January 1937 trial of Piatakov, Radek, Sokolnikov et al. The argument advanced at the time of the first great Show Trial that the precise veracity of many of the specific charges was less important than the core allegation is repeated: “Discrepancies, contradictions, even sheer impossibilities in the charges and allegations of the two trials are not hard to find, but the impression seems to us inescapable—and it is shared by many observers not particularly friendly to Stalin—that, even after such material is discarded, there still remains a substantial bedrock of fact: that efforts at assassination and sabotage were indeed made by some of the followers and former followers of Trotsky and Zinoviev.” Doubt has begun to creep in, however, and certain “grave questions” have begun to emerge: “Does not the very regime of hero cult, personal exaltation of the leader, qualification for office by syncophancy, elimination of collective leadership, abandonment of democratic discussion—do not all these constitute a serious danger of more vital concern to every communist and real friend of the Soviet Union than even the deeds or the fate of the defendants on trial?” Further the running up of “revolutionary architects” on “the most atrocious crimes against the revolution” has dealt “a shattering blow to the moral foundations of Bolshevism” and raised the prospects of a dangerous period of bloodletting. “Only a complete overhauling of the whole system of political leadership and inner-party life in the communist movement, such as has long been advocated by the International Communist Opposition, holds out hope for the future,” the editorial opines.



“Advance in Chicago: An Analysis of the March 1937 Special Convention,” by Samuel Romer & Hal Siegel. Held only 10 months after the 1936 conclave, the Socialist Party’s Special Convention of 1937 was ostensibly called to restructure the national organization, increasing centralization in place of the historic loose federation of largely independent state organizations and banning the factional press in favor of a central discussion bulletin. Factionalism remained one of the central concerns of the organization, however, particularly the working alliance between the historic small group of “single plankers” (who advocated no ameloriative reforms in the party program, only the agitation for revolutionary socialism) and the new cohort of former members of the Trotskyist “Workers Party,” who shared this perspective and gave the position critical mass from a factional standpoint. Romer and Siegel, adherents of the majority Militant wing of the party, note that the decision to ban factional inner-party organs was made by the convention unanimously and saw this as a positive sign for the future of the organization.




”The Moscow Trials and the CI Crisis,” by M. Yomanowitz [May 8, 1937]. This article was printed in the official organ of the Communist Party (Opposition) as part of the pre-convention discussion in the run up to the 6th National Convention held in New York at the end of May. The author, identified only by his initials, is critical of previous analysis of the 1937 Moscow events in the party press: “The strategy of the Stalin regime as demonstrated at the trials and subsequent lynching and terror campaign is to pin the charge of Trotskyism to all forces not in agreement with its present policies. It is now abundantly clear to everybody that the suppression and physical extermination of the opposition forces is not limited to Trotskyites, for no one will honestly believe that Bukharin is a Trotskyite.” Yomanowitz continues: “Our efforts and hopes of reforming the Communist International did not bring the desired results. Instead of reforming the CI, the more reformist it became. It is high time that we draw the necessary conclusion and speak frankly and act boldly. In the past we were correct in stating that the chief source of the mistakes of the Stalin regime lay in the transfer of tactics applicable inside the Soviet Union to the other sections of the Communist International. This analysis is no longer sufficient.” Yomanowitz gives at least some credence to the charge that “the Stalin faction is fashioning the policies and tactics of the various sections of the CI to the needs of Soviet foreign policy... This position contains a lot of truth. This position does not invalidate our original view, but it rather supplements it.” Clinging to the idea of reforming the Comintern is senseless, Yomanowitz argues, noting that “we must be ready to discard our previous position that a new center without the CPSU in it is both impermissible and impossible.”




“The Meaning of the Soviet Purges,,” by Jay Lovestone [June 18, 1937]. A lengthy reassessment of the burgeoning purges in Soviet Russia by the head of the Independent Communist Labor League. “It is with the deepest regret that I must admit that there is an acute crisis in the regime, in the inner life of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union,” Lovestone states. “If we cast a retrospective glance at Russian party developments, we will find that it was entirely natural and understandable—especially under the circumstances of the stifling inner party regime headed by Stalin—that the logic of the political positions of Trotsky or of Zinoviev, Radek, and Kamenev, should lead them to an out-and-out anti-Soviet course. However, it is obviously absurd to ask us to believe that suddenly, mysteriously, Yagoda, Tukhachevsky, Gamarnik, and Rudzutak became degenerates, became mortal foes of the Soviet Union, became agents of German and Japanese imperialism.” Lovestone is chagrined at the situation: “I am face to face with a Hobson's choice. I pick only the lesser of two very serious evils. That Stalin is an expert of trumping up charges against opponents or potential opponents is not new to us. Nevertheless, here I must stress we deal with a more flagrant type of frame-up than has ever been perpetrated in factional struggle. To me the recent demotions, arrests, accusations, suicides, and executions mark the low point of the Stalin hero-cult.”